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August 30, 2017

How to make your website more accessible

By ITU News

Access to the Internet through websites, web tools and web technologies has become increasingly indispensable in the digital era. The Internet has the potential to empower individuals all around the world – especially disadvantaged communities – for it is designed to connect all people regardless of age, race, gender, and physical or mental ability.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect,” Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web once said.

It has been estimated that one billion people worldwide are living with some form of disability and they may find themselves shut out of the benefits enabled by digital technologies – unless they are accessible by design.

Websites and other digital tools can often create barriers that exclude people from accessing information they need. For example, an inaccessible job-search site could exclude people with disabilities from the employment opportunities available online.

Web accessibility means people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web.

Much like building public infrastructure in the physical world, the virtual world should be designed to be accessible and inclusive for disabled and disadvantaged communities. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a human right.

ITU has set targets that enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunication/ICT for persons with disabilities should be established in all countries by 2020.

According to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), case studies show that breaking down the accessibility barriers leads to better search results, lower maintenance costs, and wider audience reach.

What does ‘Web accessibility’ mean?

Web accessibility means people with disabilities – including visual and hearing impairments, limited motor/mobility control, photosensitive epilepsy, developmental, learning and cognitive disabilities – can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web.

Making the Web more inclusive and accessible

What can content creators and web developers do to ensure they are making information and content accessible? Here are a few examples:

  1. Alternative text for images – Visual information is inaccessible, for example, to people with visual impairments or reading difficulties who need to rely on text-to-speech (TTS) technologies that read aloud the text on a webpage. By providing alternative text or captioning images, the visual information is made available not only to people who are visually impaired, as well as people who are browsing on low-bandwidth connection in remote regions, and others.
  2. Captions and transcripts – Information on video and audio is not available for people affected by hearing loss unless an alternative format is provided, such as captions and text transcripts.
  3. Keyboard input – People who have limited motor control and mobility, including the elderly, may experience extreme difficulty using a mouse or a touchpad. If all functionality of a website can be achieved via a keyboard, it can also be accessed by many other assistive technologies that simulate the keyboard, such as speech input.
  4. Text color contrast – Having sufficient color contrast between the text and its background – text on images, icons, and buttons – makes the information more readable for people with color blindness or lower contrast sensitivity.
  5. Descriptive links – Links are a key factor to determine how easy it is to navigate a website. An effective link should be clear and self-explanatory, and communicates to the user where it will lead to after clicking.

To help create a friendly virtual environment that is accessible and easy to navigate for all, web accessibility evaluation tools, checklists, as well as guidelines are available for content creators and developers to inspect the accessibility levels of any website. Some examples can be found here.

ITU works to increase accessibility of ICTs, including the Web. Find out more by clicking here.

By Nicole Jao (@nicole_i_jao), ITU News

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